Indian History: Learning during US Visits

After retirement, my only past time has been reading a lot and a very little writing too, including this entry too. But whenever I am in US, it is more intensive and purposeful.

During my almost six-months stay in 2005, I regularly spent about four-five hours of afternoon in ‘Borders’, the bookshop in San Jose. Anand used to leave there after my lunch and pick me while coming back from his office. Later on Borders got closed. In Cary, where Anand shifted in 2010, the location of Barnes and Noble is not convenient. However, I did go for few days. I preferred these bookstores rather than the local libraries, as I could access the latest books and particularly magazines and journals, and thus keep on tracking the latest views on the subjects of my interest.

This year with almost perfect eyesight after the cataract operations of both the eyes, I focused on few books that were available with Anand in Cary and Rajesh in Austin. In Cary, I went through two of John Keay’s history books- ‘India: A History’, that I had brought here in 2010. I got his another very revealing book, ‘India Discovered’ that I purchased through Amazon this time. The book reveals how the history of ancient India was written after various revelations by the officers of East India Company and other Europeans through deep archeological studies, explorations and excavations. None but just one Indian archeologist, and historian, Rakhal Das Banerji had any mention in the book.

Alexander Cunnigham, the Archeological Surveyor, while touring the Punjab in the winter of 1872-3 investigated Harappa ruins (now in Pakistan). But by that time, more than a hundred miles of track had been ballasted with bricks from Harappa by the railway contractors of Lahore-Multan line.

It was R. D. Banerji, ‘one of Sir John Marshall’s Indian recruits’, discovered Mohenjo-daro and the famous seal and recognised it as belonging to the same class as those on the Harappan seals. Marshall himself, descended on Mohenjo-daro for the 1925-6 season and was impressed by its drainage system. The houses, which were unexpectedly roomy, had each its own well and bathroom, from where a waste pipe connected with covered conduits which ran the length of every street and alley. They were built of finely chiselled brick ‘ laid with a precision that could hardly be improved upon’. This implied a ‘social condition of the people much in advance of what was then prevailing in Mesopotamia and Egypt’.”

Surprisingly, even now Noida where I live in India, most of the drains are open.

In Austin, I have gone through a book on World WarII that Rajesh would have bought for Svanik. Let me confess I hardly knew anything about the war that changed the face of the world. It is strange to even think how Japan could have gone for a war with US, and a man from Germany could massacre the whole of Europe and particularly the Jews.

Presently, I am going through DK’s ‘History‘ with Adam Hart Davis as editorial consultant. I shall like to share some of the things:

“Flint tipped dental drills, found in Indus Valley, date back as far as 7000 BCE. Teeth in remains found nearby showed signs of a skilful drilling to remove rotten dental tissue…….

The Valley (with the most notable Neolithic culture, starting C.7000BCE) ranked among the first great civilizations, in the company of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were probably the world’s first planned cities with broad avenues and narrow side streets lined with spacious town houses, all set out in a well defined grid pattern. Remarkably, Indus cities thousand of miles apart were laid out in a similar way.

Some Indus Valley artifacts, most famously the jewelry, have been found at sites as far as in Mesopotamia and Iran indicating widespread trading links. It indicates advances made in methods of transportation, especially in boats suited to long distance travel along sea routes. The Indus people seem to have been among the first to develop a precise weights and measures system.

Herbalism is also central to Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in the Vedic period of India shortly before 1000BCE……The Ayurvedic system is typical of the approach to science and technology that began to emerge in India during the 1st millennium BCE. People began to think rationally, organise their thoughts, discuss them with others, and derive theories. This approach led not only to an encyclopaedic knowledge of human anatomy and of a vast range of diseases, but also to well thought out systems of diagnosis and treatment- the basis of modern medicine. (Page 52)
The Ayurvedic system flourished across the Indian subcontinent. Its main exponent was Sushruta, whose 6th- century BCE work Sushruta Samhita describes more than 100 surgical procedures. Many historians of medicine refer to him as the ‘Father of Surgery’.”(page 53)

All these readings make me proud of our heritage and will also do that to many countrymen.

It is interesting that even today most of the research works about Harappa and Mahenjo-daro has shifted from the historians in UK to those in US.

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